How old is too old for infant baptism?

Discussion in 'Baptism' started by pslagle2012, Feb 10, 2017.

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  1. pslagle2012

    pslagle2012 Puritan Board Freshman

    I am a former Baptist turned paedobaptist. My wife is a Baptist and she and I are in an ongoing discussion about whether to baptize our children. Our son is almost three and we have an infant daughter. She is adamant that she doesn't want our three year old baptized, because she feels it would confuse him since he's old enough to be more aware of what is going on. Since I think it is possible for a three year old to come to know Christ, is three too old for infant baptism and if not is there some unspoken rule among Presbyterians as to what age a child is no longer a candidate for baptism?
  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    I think you need to settle this issue with your wife before you worry about how old is too old.
  3. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, he should definitely be baptized.

    Infant baptism has nothing to do with the understanding of the infant/toddler, but on obeying God and placing the covenant sign on him. If we see an OT counterpart in circumcision, we can look at how and to whom it was administered. Consider Ishmael.
  4. timfost

    timfost Puritan Board Senior

    Yes, it seems that more instruction is in order. Good point.
  5. Southern Presbyterian

    Southern Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  6. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

    Ibid. those who said you and your wife should be of the same mind.

    I suppose most will disagree with me, but ought not ALL subordinate family members, of whatever age, if willing to be taught and who are in subjection to their head, be baptized? I won't try to defend this at this point in case I just get laughed off the PB.
  7. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    No one is too old. Presbyterians don't just believe in infant (Paedo) baptism but also oikobaptism (household baptism). You see examples of this in Scripture of course. The only reason there is such a focus on paedobaptism is because so many baptists have a problem with infants being baptized. So, no one is too old if there one believing parent.

    But I agree, before even thinking about who should be baptized, one needs to work it out with spouse first.
  8. Joshua

    Joshua Administrator Staff Member

    6.7125 and three-eighths
  9. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    I wish that Br. Joshua would be more precise!

    But, seriously, apart from the question of engaging your wife and reaching agreement about this, it cannot be stressed enough that Tim, Ed and Andrew are right. Even if there were a discussion about age (say you had a 16 yo; I think that he should be baptized, too, btw), no one would ever argue that someone that young (3 yo) would not be a candidate for covenant baptism. Among paedobaptists this is not a disputed issue: clearly your 3 yo son should be baptized.

  10. lynnie

    lynnie Puritan Board Graduate

  11. zsmcd

    zsmcd Puritan Board Freshman

  12. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Junior

  13. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Who in the house should be baptized is a question of application respecting the general direction of Scripture (so taught by Presbyterians) concerning the proper circumstances and subjects of baptism.

    So, the question is legitimate; but as has already been pointed out, the potential for increased fractious relationship in the marriage is a serious practical obstacle. I agree with most of the counsel already offered: patience, prayer, love.

    A three year old is manifestly under parental dominion; he is not "of age" (Jn.9:21) to speak for himself. As to whether he could be confused, indeed he will be more sensible than a tiny infant about the experience; and this is not a bad thing, from my perspective. He still has many fresh experiences, for example the first time to his recollection he has a birthday cake and presents, and all eyes are on him while he's prompted to do curious (scary?) things including some involving (often) flame--woah!

    In baptism we're passive, while things happen to us.

    As written above, that the infant being baptized has relatively limited awareness or recall of the event seems to be a factor in a spouse' consent. If I could speculate on the reasoning, it might go something like this: 1) I'm not on board; 2) I want as little conflict about this as possible with my spouse; 3) the tiny baby will not be affected by a "meaningless" rite; 4) the baby can get "properly" baptized as late as whenever; 5) a three year old, OTOH, can have some memories to work through, i.e. "confusion."

    If such a chain is fair to the mind of the reluctant spouse, then clearly there's a serious conviction there. A change of mind here is something on par with a "conversion." I wouldn't doubt but there's genuine fear--the belief that infant baptism (a thing, not a practice) is an essential, constructive, coordinating element of Romanism.

    Put yourself in this person's shoes: my spouse--I love this person; if I'm a wife and a believer, I'm committed to submission in the Lord to my husband; I'm terrified we're possibly on a path out of Christianity as I understood it growing up, even as my husband knew it when we met and married, and as a family we're heading toward Rome (of all places).

    I don't agree with that conclusion, but I sympathize with it. Many, many solid believers grow up in isolated churches (many of them baptistic), learning their religion and committing to it, having not a whole lot of church history or exposure to the beliefs of other denominations--other than to explain (in simple terms) what's wrong with those others: they are Rome, a terrible enemy of truth; those are churches that didn't get away far enough from Rome, so are still caught by the snare; those are compromising churches; etc.

    I do NOT think that such a person is deficient. I think he is human. Think about it: some people ARE heading to Rome who leave their old home church, and the Presbyterians, or the Lutherans, or the Anglicans are a stepping stone to get there by degrees.

    I have said on this Board many times: pulling yourself (and your family) up by your baptism is traumatic, it is uprooting, transplanting, and I don't recommend an alignment change for the sake of "consistency." The practice of baptism is an expression of the theology of baptism.

    It IS confusing to take on a practice, and then go looking for the best justification for it. Because then, one is open to be weighing this or that reasoning, rather than settling into the best theology, and working out from there.
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  14. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

    Without clicking on it, I think that is the discussion where I learned that 'infant' in this context didn't mean what I had always thought it meant.

    I would think that most PCA churches would be willing to baptize both children at the same service.
  15. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Presbyterians are always going to say, yes, baptize your three-year-old. Do get your wife on board, though.

    In the case of a teenager...
    Yes, a teenager is part of the parents' household. He may be baptized on that basis. Or if he is prepared to profess faith for himself, he may be baptized as an adult (which would be preferable, if he is ready).

    But if the teenager were resistant, if he insisted he wanted nothing to do with being instructed in the faith and rejected the idea of belonging to Christ, I might recommend against baptizing him. Our reason for baptizing children does not have so much to do with a principle of under-my-roof paternal authority; it's more about how even the youngest disciples being brought up in the faith are part of Christ's family, even before they can express for themselves the faith they're growing into. If a teen persists in rejecting this status and is capable of understanding how this means he is rejecting Christ, perhaps he should not be forced or cajoled into baptism. We do not wish to harden his heart, nor suggest he live a lie, nor pretend that the choice he is making will not really separate him from Christ.
  16. pslagle2012

    pslagle2012 Puritan Board Freshman

    I have to thank you for this response. It really helped me put myself in my wife's shoes as she has said these same things often. She is not a rebellious wife. She's more than I have ever hoped for. But just last night she told me how hard it is that she married a Baptist and now she's married to a Presbyterian. I have studied the issue for several months now and am pretty firm in my convictions but we don't fight over it. We discuss it often. She is also purging from her fundamentalist upbringing at the same time.
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